Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Nairn's London (1966)

I bought this book without knowing much about the author, other than he was an opinionated architecture critic (is there any other kind?) and he was dead.

Turns out he was a bit more interesting than that. He was passionate about the built environment and wrote extensively in praise of the variety and character of British architecture and the strange histories woven into the world around us. But as post war modernist dreams faltered, variety and character were noticeable by their absence from the suburban sprawl and mediocrity of generic developments across the country, and so Nairn grew more despairing and eventually 'sank in a fatal tide of Guiness'.

The book has a cool cover (another bus) and plenty of hauntolgical references in it's generous (for Penguin) photographs and text on the weirder corners of the capital.

Jonathan Glancy made a nice series of videos for the Guardian earlier this year celebrating the vision of Nairn and illustrating that the issues he raged against are still unresolved.

Watch here


  1. That Henry VII death mask is amazing.

  2. Coincidentally, Ian Nairn popped up in the book I was reading on the bus this morning: "Derelict Britain", by John Barr, 1969 (scans from which are on my FO list). Barr gives Nairn a telling-off for praising spoil-heaps and abandoned mine works etc, and calling for their preservation.

  3. "Derelict Britain". Isn't that the truth?!
    Looking forward to the scans.